Scylla

Scylla

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In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Scylla (icon ; , Skylla) was a monster that lived on one side of a narrow channel of water, opposite its counterpart Charybdis
Charybdis
Charybdis or Kharybdis was a sea monster, later rationalised as a whirlpool and considered a shipping hazard in the Strait of Messina.-The mythological background:...

. The two sides of the strait were within an arrow's range of each other—so close that sailors attempting to avoid Charybdis would pass too close to Scylla and vice versa.

Scylla was a horrible sea monster with four eyes, six long necks equipped with grisly heads, each of which contained three rows of sharp teeth. Her body consisted of twelve tentacle-like legs and a cat's tail and with four to six dog-heads ringing her waist. She was one of the children of Phorcys
Phorcys
In Greek mythology, Phorcys , a primordial sea god, generally cited as the son of Pontus and Gaia. According to the Orphic hymns, Phorcys, Cronus and Rhea were the eldest offspring of Oceanus and Tethys. Classical scholar Karl Kerenyi conflated Phorcys with the similar sea gods Nereus and Proteus...

 and Ceto
Ceto
In ancient Greek, the word ketos - Latinized as cetus - denotes a large fish, a whale, a shark, or a sea monster. The sea monsters slain by Perseus and Heracles were each referred to as a cetus by ancient sources. The term cetacean originates from cetus. In Greek art, cetea were depicted as...

. Some sources, including Stesichorus
Stesichorus
Stesichorus was the first great poet of the Greek West. He is best known for telling epic stories in lyric metres but he is also famous for some ancient traditions about his life, such as his opposition to the tyrant Phalaris, and the blindness he is said to have incurred and cured by composing...

, cite her parents as Triton
Triton (mythology)
Triton is a mythological Greek god, the messenger of the big sea. He is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and Amphitrite, goddess of the sea, whose herald he is...

 and Lamia
Lamia (mythology)
In ancient Greek mythology, Lamia was a beautiful queen of Libya who became a child-eating daemon. Aristophanes claimed her name derived from the Greek word for gullet , referring to her habit of devouring children....

.

Traditionally the strait has been associated with the Strait of Messina
Strait of Messina
The Strait of Messina is the narrow passage between the eastern tip of Sicily and the southern tip of Calabria in the south of Italy. It connects the Tyrrhenian Sea with the Ionian Sea, within the central Mediterranean...

 between Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, but more recently this theory has been challenged, and the alternative location of Cape Skilla in northwest Greece has been suggested by Tim Severin
Tim Severin
Tim Severin is a British explorer, historian and writer. Severin is noted for his work in retracing the legendary journeys of historical figures. Severin was awarded both the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Livingstone Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society...

.

The idiom 'between Scylla and Charybdis' has come to mean being between two dangers, choosing either of which brings harm.

Homer's Odyssey



In Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

XII, Odysseus
Odysseus
Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

 is given advice by Circe
Circe
In Greek mythology, Circe is a minor goddess of magic , described in Homer's Odyssey as "The loveliest of all immortals", living on the island of Aeaea, famous for her part in the adventures of Odysseus.By most accounts, Circe was the daughter of Helios, the god of the sun, and Perse, an Oceanid...

 to sail closer to Scylla, for Charybdis could drown his whole ship: "Hug Scylla's crag—sail on past her—top speed! Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship than lose your entire crew" she warns, and tells Odysseus to bid Scylla's mother, the river nymph Crataeis, to prevent her from pouncing more than once. Odysseus then successfully sails his ship past Scylla and Charybdis, but Scylla manages to catch six of his men, devouring them alive:
"...they writhed
gasping as Scylla swung them up her cliff and there
at her cavern's mouth she bolted them down raw—
screaming out, flinging their arms toward me,
lost in that mortal struggle."

Ovid


According to Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, Scylla was once a beautiful nymph. The fisherman-turned-sea-god
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 Glaucus
Glaucus
Glaucus is a Greek name. In modern Greek usage, the name is usually transliterated Glafkos. It may refer to:*Glaucus, a sea-god in Greek mythology*Glaucus , a mythical Lycian captain in the Trojan War...

 fell madly in love with her, but she fled from him onto the land where he could not follow. Despair filled his heart. He went to the sorceress Circe to ask for a love potion to melt Scylla's heart. As he told his tale of love about Scylla to Circe, she herself fell in love with him. She wooed him with her sweetest words and looks, but the sea-god would have none of her. Circe was furious, but with Scylla and not with Glaucus. She prepared a vial of very powerful poison and poured it in the pool where Scylla bathed. As soon as the nymph entered the water, she was transformed into a frightful monster with twelve feet and six heads, each with three rows of teeth. Angry, growling wolf heads grew from her waist, and she tried to brush them off. She stood there in utter misery, unable to move, loathing and destroying everything that came into her reach, a peril to all sailors who passed near her. Whenever a ship passed, each of her heads would seize one of the crew.

Scylla is rationalised in the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

as a dangerous rock outcropping.

Later Antiquity


In a late Greek myth, it was said that Heracles
Heracles
Heracles ,born Alcaeus or Alcides , was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus...

 encountered Scylla during a journey to Sicily and slew her. Her father, the sea-god Phorcys
Phorcys
In Greek mythology, Phorcys , a primordial sea god, generally cited as the son of Pontus and Gaia. According to the Orphic hymns, Phorcys, Cronus and Rhea were the eldest offspring of Oceanus and Tethys. Classical scholar Karl Kerenyi conflated Phorcys with the similar sea gods Nereus and Proteus...

, then applied flaming torches to her body and restored her to life.

According to John Tzetzes and Servius' commentary on the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

, Scylla was a beautiful naiad
Naiad
In Greek mythology, the Naiads or Naiades were a type of nymph who presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, and brooks....

 who was claimed by Poseidon, but the jealous Amphitrite
Amphitrite
In ancient Greek mythology, Amphitrite was a sea-goddess and wife of Poseidon. Under the influence of the Olympian pantheon, she became merely the consort of Poseidon, and was further diminished by poets to a symbolic representation of the sea...

 turned her into a monster by poisoning the water of the spring where Scylla would bathe. A similar story is found in Hyginus
Hyginus
Hyginus can refer to:People:*Gaius Julius Hyginus , Roman poet, author of Fabulae, reputed author of Poeticon astronomicon*Hyginus Gromaticus, Roman surveyor*Pope Hyginus, also a saint, Bishop of Rome about 140...

: according to him, Scylla was the daughter of the river god Crataeis and was loved by Glaucus
Glaucus
Glaucus is a Greek name. In modern Greek usage, the name is usually transliterated Glafkos. It may refer to:*Glaucus, a sea-god in Greek mythology*Glaucus , a mythical Lycian captain in the Trojan War...

, but Glaucus himself was also loved by Circe
Circe
In Greek mythology, Circe is a minor goddess of magic , described in Homer's Odyssey as "The loveliest of all immortals", living on the island of Aeaea, famous for her part in the adventures of Odysseus.By most accounts, Circe was the daughter of Helios, the god of the sun, and Perse, an Oceanid...

. When Scylla was bathing in the sea, the jealous Circe poured some potion into the sea water, which caused Scylla to transform into a monster. The fact that Scylla devoured some of Odysseus' companions is thus regarded as an act of her revenge on Circe, considering that Odysseus too was loved by the sorceress.

In European culture


At the Carolingian abbey of Corvey in Westphalia, a unique ninth-century wall painting depicts, among other things, Odysseus' fight with Scylla, an illustration not noted elsewhere in medieval arts. The character of Sin from John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

's Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books, with a total of over ten thousand individual lines of verse...

is similar to Homer's description of Scylla. Scylla and Charybdis are actually mentioned at one point in the poem.
In James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's Ulysses, paralleling the Odyssey, the "Scylla and Charybdis" episode takes place in the National Library of Ireland
National Library of Ireland
The National Library of Ireland is Ireland's national library located in Dublin, in a building designed by Thomas Newenham Deane. The Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism is the member of the Irish Government responsible for the library....

in Kildare Street, Dublin.

External links